Lessons from the First 100: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect + What’s Next

Are you ready for some real talk? If so, this 100th episode of the Mama Business Podcast is just for you! I’m sharing some of my personal experiences over these past couple of years as well as the five lessons from 100 podcast episodes. It’s going to get real and raw, so buckle up – and let’s get started.

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Lessons from 100 Podcast Episodes: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect + What’s Next

Well hey there and welcome back to the Mama Business Podcast. Today actually marks a milestone – 100 episodes and I’m really excited you’re joining me.

I thought we would take a break from our series today in order to reflect a little on the past 18 months that this podcast has been live. And, in talking to my accountability group about what to share – should it be only podcast related, should it be tips and tricks I’ve learned, or something else? They encouraged me to get personal. To share a portion of what’s gone on in my life since the launch of this podcast and the lessons I’ve learned through those happenings – and how they have and will continue to affect the trajectory of this podcast. And so I’m super grateful for their support in this, but I have to say that I have STRUGGLED with this. Serious STRUGGLE BUS to try to figure out how to start. So I’m just going to do so and I pray that you can understand my heart – for my family, for my business, for you – as I share.

And I’m going to start by saying that I don’t do personal well. I KNOW without a doubt that those personal stories that we share make the connections. The make connections not only in our personal lives with those who are around us, but they also help to make connections and attract people to our businesses – our brands – because those folks now know that they have something in common with us or they want to know how we’ve navigated a season of life that they might currently be in.

And I know that. In fact, I say that all the time here on this podcast, right?

But mama, I don’t do personal well. Because if I have to be personal, I feel the need to go all in. Everything is intertwined. Not one thing happening in my life goes without ties to something else.

And so if I’m sharing on a personal level, then suddenly I’m sharing that I struggled significantly postpartum – just over two years ago – and that I started this podcast right as I came back from maternity leave, still unsure how to navigate having a little one at home without reliable childcare and quite honestly, still dealing with the emotional fallout of embracing a new life stage – one with both teenagers and a baby at home.

Or I’m sharing that I have serious autoimmune issues that can hit out of the blue and leave me out of commission for days and sometimes weeks. Because my body needs rest or there’s just not enough energy to allocate to “all the things”.

Or I’m sharing that our middle daughter had a serious mental health breakdown during the launch of this podcast. A mental health crisis that not only threatened her safety, but the safety of everyone around her. A crisis that involved three emergency inpatient stays totaling more than 30 days that spring. A crisis that destroyed family relationships and has resulted in her placement in out-of-state inpatient care for over 15 months as of the date of this recording. That doesn’t even include the insurance fights, need for legal representation, or the thousands of hours invested into ensuring that she had and continues to have the necessary services and support she needs. And…that journey is far from over.

But when it gets personal, I can’t just stop there, because, through it all, my business, my goals, my focus – all took a huge hit in order to manage those things. And to me, that’s personal. Because I’ve spent years growing this business, talking about the importance of being consistent, of showing up, and the reality is that’s not always been feasible throughout this season of my life. I’ve shown up, yet – but not consistently. I’ve grown my business – but not to the extent that I wanted to.

And that might all sound bad, but here’s the deal – while I’d love it if the last two years had been easy, I would not be the same person I am today without the situations, the struggles, the challenges I encountered personally. My family would not be the same. And my business would not be what you see today either. Knowing that, I want to take the rest of our time together today and talk about some unexpected lessons from 100 podcast episodes – honestly, just the realization of the importance of these things – and then we can chat about what that means for this podcast and my business going forward.

Lesson #1: The Importance of Having Someone to Talk To

The first of the lessons from 100 podcast episodes I learned is just how important it is to have someone to talk to – in any season you might be going through. And while some of these lessons are like “no-brainers” maybe, I think that especially when we go through rough season, where nothing makes sense, it’s easy to hide, to withdraw maybe, and to forget that we need to have others around that we can talk with honestly.

Personally, I’ve been seeing a counselor for several years off and on and while that’s definitely something that’s helpful, it isn’t the end all when it comes to the people I needed to surround myself with when everything went haywire.

I need friends. Friends that understand and are supportive. And trust me, I know that those can be few and far between but we’ve been incredibly blessed by some amazing people that have navigated this season right alongside our family. That have cried with us, celebrated in the mini-wins, and even invested their own time, knowledge, and financial resources. Without them we would not be where we are today. So I’m grateful for that. But that is just a solid indicator that we need people to walk our journeys with us. We aren’t meant to do this alone.

The other thing I’ve learned is that I absolutely need people who hold me accountable – whether that’s personally or in business, I need those people who will listen while I discuss what I’m up to and what my goals and plans are for the future, and then hold me to them. I need those people who will help me troubleshoot when something isn’t going right OR point me in the direction of resources that might help. I have to say that right at the beginning of this podcasting journey, each member of my accountability group that I’ve been part of for years had a major situation come up. We tried to keep our meetings going, but it was a full year before we actually got back into the swing of things and began meeting again. That year was so lonely for me – especially as I struggled to keep myself afloat – at home and in business. I desperately needed that group, those women to keep me accountable and to bring me – at times – back down to reality or give me that swift kick in the pants to leave behind a “woe is me” attitude and find the solution instead.

And it’s because I know how important it was and continues to be to have people in my life that can point me in the right direction, offer support and guidance, and just celebrate those mini-wins that in December of last year, I announced that I was offering Mama Business Strategy Calls. Those calls have not only allowed me to help business owners with systems and strategies, but I haven’t had a single one of them to-date that didn’t incorporate discussion about personal dreams, goals, struggles, concerns or feelings of inadequacies. Why? Because sometimes you just need someone to talk with that understands. That’s willing to listen. And growing an online business can often be a lonely journey – so having a person that understand that, is even better.

So, lesson number one is knowing and embracing the importance of having someone to talk to.

Lesson #2: The Importance of Knowing that Taking a Step Back Doesn’t Mean Failure

The second of the lessons from 100 podcast episodes I’ve really learned or have had hammered into me over these last two years is the importance of knowing that taking a step back doesn’t mean failure. This is something that I had to learn the very hard way over these past two years but it’s a lesson that I’m so glad I did learn.

I’m really a type-A stick to a schedule type person. In fact, if you ask anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you that if it’s not on my calendar and planned out well in advance, it’s unlikely to happen. But they’ll also tell you that if it is planned and on my calendar, then I’m going to be there, completing that thing. And – when I set a goal, nine times out of ten I meet that goal. I put in the work, I make it a priority, and I don’t let anything get in my way.

In July 2022, just four months into my podcasting journey, I’d already fallen off the face of the podcasting planet. And with good reason. I was spending 40 to 50 hours per week working on getting my daughter the care she needed. The phone rang and I ran for it, because if I missed the call, I might miss an opportunity for good. That’s how it was for a lot of providers. If you didn’t get the call, they moved down the wait list. The flip side of that is that I’d have to wait three days for someone to return my call again if I missed it now.

I was in survival mode and, there were things that I had to take a step back from, including recording podcast episodes. And yet, even knowing that I didn’t have the bandwidth, I felt guilt throughout that entire time away. Like I was a failure because I wasn’t staying consistent, because I wasn’t showing up and recording an episode for you, because I wasn’t setting the example I’d set out to set.

But you know what – it wasn’t a failure. God had called me to turn my attention to something else during that time frame and, even thought I didn’t have perfect attendance with my podcasting schedule, my business continued to grow even during that hard season.

And here’s what else grew:

My baby grew into a toddler knowing that he could depend on his mama to be there when he needed her.

My oldest daughter – who dealt with significant trauma from not only her sister, but also prior to being adopted by us – has made huge strides. She’s gone from someone that we worried about all of the time, to a motivated young woman who is beautiful inside and out. But that took time, that took being present each and every time she walked into the room. That took listening and finding solutions and…so much more.

My marriage grew, my friendships grew, my relationship with and dependence on God grew…and so much more.

Taking a step back actually proved to be one of the best decisions I could’ve made during that time frame. And when I did finally return, I came back to my business with a whole new perspective – a perspective that has paved the way for what my business looks like today and has allowed me to understand and embrace my true priorities – both in business and at home.

So lesson number two was knowing that taking a step back doesn’t mean failure. But sometimes that’s hard to see in the moment.

Lesson #3: The Importance of Reflecting But Not Staying Stuck in the Past

The third of the lessons from 100 podcast episodes I learned during this time frame was the importance of reflecting, but not staying stuck in the past. You see, reflection IS really important – thinking about the things that worked and didn’t worked, the systems that might have been used, the approach to different situations. We can definitely benefit from that kind of reflection. But it’s that mindset of wishing for the past that’s actually detrimental to our future success.

Let me explain.

Coming out of maternity leave I think that I thought it was going to go back to the way things were before. I think that in all honesty I believed that I was going to be able to keep up with everything I’d done pre-baby and that I was going to be the same person I’d been before.

But the reality was that was not true.

I was exhausted. I was distracted. Trying to feed my baby, trying to keep up with teenagers, trying to keep the house clean, trying to keep my clients happy…trying… And I didn’t understand the toll that was going to take on both myself and my business. So, I found myself thinking back to how it was before. Dreaming that someday it might be that way again. But the more I thought about past times, and how good it seemed like it was pre-baby or prior to all of the stuff that was happening in our lives, the more I looked back, the more discontent I felt with where I currently was.

And the problem with that is that I can’t go back right? I’m in this season for a reason.

But at one point several months back, I decided that it might benefit me to go back through my old journals and notebooks and figure out what I was doing during what I remembered to be an amazing time of my life and business – and to determine what I might be forgetting to do now. Seriously, that was exactly what I wanted to find out. Was I missing a key element that would make everything better in my current life? I had to be, right?

So, I did just that. I pulled out all of my notebooks and journals from the past five years – there’s 15 or more of them – and I just started to flip through them looking for clues.

And I think I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but I realized that there were plenty of days when back then when I felt exhausted, uncertain of myself or my business, and many many entries where I mentioned feeling like a fraud, like I was out of place in this online business world. There were months when the income wasn’t as good as I needed it to be, and other times when I just plain wanted to shut down the business for good. In fact, there were entire weeks in which my top 2 items daily read: take a shower and remember to smile.

Of course, there were so many good things noted as well, but it’s just a perfect indicator that no season of life is perfect. They all come with their own struggles and some are a bit more challenging than others, but looking back and wishing for the past won’t help us move forward into the future.

And this is something that I have really learned in the 18 months since starting this podcast. And my goal going forward is to look forward. Because past seasons are just that – the past. We can learn from them, but ultimately, we have to move forward.

So lesson number three was understanding the importance of reflection versus wishing for the past.

Lesson #4: The Importance of Enjoying the Journey Rather Than Focusing on the Endgame

The fourth lesson I learned from these lessons from 100 podcast episodes was the importance of enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the endgame. I’m a goals girl. I like checking things off the list and seeing the completed end product. I just do. It makes me happy and I feel successful and accomplished. So, like I said in the beginning, I really struggle with staying in the moment and enjoying the journey along the way.

But there’s nothing like having a baby and realizing how quickly they grow and change. And, as you now know, my older daughter’s mental health crisis hit it’s peak during the baby’s first year of life. That meant that in addition to trying to keep up with work and managing the mental health end of things, my son was growing up and I was completely distracted.

That’s a hard thing to admit, but I remember right about the time that he was 18 months old that some of those pictures from months prior popped up as memories on my phone. And my heart sank. Because one of them was a picture of him hanging in one of those doorjamb swings – you know the ones you hook up and they bounce in. And he was just happily bouncing by himself and obviously I took the picture, but I know what I was focused on behind the camera and it didn’t have much, if anything, to do with him.

And yes, I understand that there are times when we can’t be present, but for me, that was a huge wake up call to realize that I’d missed things. I’d been in the room and I hadn’t been fully present – I’d been so focused on completing tasks and checking things off the list so that I could have something big happen in the future, that I’d forgotten to live my life in the present.

Justin and I realized that we were guilty of the same thing in other ways. And, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to deal with a major crisis like mental health with a kid, raising someone with special needs, or just plain anything that has you feeling like you have to fight in order to be heard. But that’s exactly what we were doing. Fighting insurance for coverage. Fighting for necessary services that weren’t available in our area. Fighting providers to simply do their jobs. Fighting pharmacies to get the correct prescriptions in the time frame they were needed. Fighting with billing departments for payment plans and financial hardship plans. We fought and while we were fighting we kept saying “when this thing – whatever it is – happens, things will be better” and yet, the situation persisted. And before long, that’s all we knew to do and we didn’t know how to shake ourselves from the fight mode. But we were missing our lives along the way.

But we’ve come to learn over this time period that it’s all about being present. Being in the moment, and focusing on the journey rather than waiting for the end result to be happy. Sure we needed to fight – but that fight didn’t have to control our entire lives. We could still be happy and find joy in the moments we were blessed with. And that’s exactly what we chose to do. To log out of social media, prioritize putting our phones down, and just spend time being in the moment. Engaging. Smiling. And doing so even when things weren’t perfect or even when we can’t see what the results will be going forward.

That’s hard, friend, but you know what: it’s a lesson I’m so glad that we’ve had the opportunity to learn. Because while achieving my goals – personally or professionally – is important, it’s not more important than being present for my life, no matter what season I might be in.

So that’s lesson number four.

Lesson #5: The Importance of Putting a Strategy in Place BEFORE You Need It

That brings us to the fifth lesson of the lessons from 100 podcast episodes and that is the importance of putting a strategy in place before you need it.

And I talk about this all of the time on this podcast, but I’m so incredibly grateful for the strategy and the systems that I put into place prior to having a family crisis divert my attention elsewhere. A crisis that I had no idea was even on the horizon. I’m so thankful for the fact that, even when I had to take a break from my strategy of engaging new people through this podcast, my website was up and running, my SEO strategy was in place, and I’d designed workflows for my clients that were easy to follow and, at times, didn’t even need my attention.

Because the truth is that while my business didn’t grow to the extent that I’d planned – it did continue to grow – without social media, without sharing with everyone I knew – but purely through the organic systems I’d set up.

I booked new clients each and every month and managed to continue to serve my ongoing clients. But none of that would have been possible without the systems in place to start with.

So, while I knew it was important to get those things in place ASAP, I didn’t truly understand that importance until I didn’t have extra time on my hands, until I wasn’t able to do the busy work that by business would have required otherwise.

So that’s lesson number five.

Take Action + What’s Next

And this is the point in the episode where I normally challenge you to take action, because we all know that action is where the dreams turn into the reality. But today’s episode is a little different, isn’t it. Which left me wondering whether I should even add an action step here or just let it be. But before we get to that, let’s recap the lessons I’ve learned throughout the time frame that I created these past 100 episodes:

  1. The Importance of Having Someone to Talk To
  2. The Importance of Knowing that Taking a Step Back Doesn’t Mean Failure
  3. The Importance of Reflecting But Not Staying Stuck in the Past
  4. The Importance of Enjoying the Journey Rather Than Focusing on the Endgame
  5. The Importance of Putting a Strategy in Place BEFORE You Need It

So, here’s the action I’d like you to take. Just think through those lessons and ask yourself if there’s any one of those that you need to focus on over the next week, month, year, decade, whatever it is. And then do so. And, if you need help putting a strategy into place, or encouragement when things aren’t working the way they should, or someone to smack you around a little because you’re stuck in the mud of the past and can’t break free – feel free to book a strategy session with me by heading to sarahbrumley.com/strategy.

And I did say we’d talk about what comes next? Well, when it comes to the podcast, to my business – just more of the same. Encouragement to stay the course, action steps to get your systems and strategy into place, and probably a little more real talk like today. No matter what, I’m going to continue to focus on being present in the moment, whether that’s a moment spent with family or friends, a moment in my business, or a moment here on the podcast speaking with you.

I don’t know what the future holds for sure. I mean, none of us do, but I know without a doubt that God does and I rest in the certainty that He’s got a plan that’s greater than anything I can imagine.

So mama, no matter what season you’re currently sitting in, know that I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this! Have an amazing day and I’ll chat with you next time.

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